All of us have gifts. Some of us have natural abilities in sports, others music, others art, others in intellect and academics. Some of us are physically beautiful. Some of us even have more intimate abilities that I won't go into detail about here. There are variations all in between. No matter how gifted we are or believe we are, there is invariably someone, somewhere else in the world, that is "better" at that thing. There are always going to be people better and people worse than us in any number of categories.
We are all different and unique. It sounds like something from a television commercial trying to imprint us with healthy self-esteem, right? Well, it is true. Some of our abilities are amazing, a true sign of God's beauty. And some of our abilities range from limited to "handicapped" to tragic. We are born the way we are. The body deteriorates the way it does. And then there are tragic accidents. Our mind, our beauty, our physical strengths -all gone in a blink.
God tells us in His Word to not compare ourselves to each other. Our prideful competitiveness longs for our own greatness, by comparing ourselves to others. Some of us are arrogant, because we think we are in the top echelon of our peers. And then some of us, on the opposite end of the spectrum, hate ourselves because we want to be great, we want the glory, we crave feeling "worthy" by being great in one or two areas, but we are not.
I believe one of the reasons God tells us to not compare ourselves with each other (other than the fact that it stems from sinful pride) is that it truly misunderstands and abuses what our gifts and differences and limitations are for.
1. Our gifts are meant to be means for glorifying God and blessing others, not ascribing greatness to ourselves and deriving power from being approved by others and considered "better."
2. Our differences and limitations are meant to be means for us to live in love in community under God. In other words, we aren't meant to be great in every single area by design (not even talking about the imperfection of sin). This is so we will remember that only God can be our all-in-all (not people) and that we are meant to love and serve one another, giving to one another rather than demanding that others fulfill all of our wants. In community, in relationships, we give what we have to serve others, joyfully bearing with the limitations of others while they bear with ours, even complimenting the limitations of others with our strengths.
All of the things we have for temporal gifts can be taken away in an instant, and eventually all of them fade. Our beauty will droop and sag and wrinkle and stretch. Our mind will start to go weak. Our athletic abilities will break down with old age. That is why there is such a danger in using them for other than what they were intended. When we use them for self, building our lives and identity upon them, we are setting ourselves up for disaster. We may feel on top for a moment, but it will crumble.
The final thing we must consider is that you and I will stand before God, one day, and give an account of how we have used with every single gift we have been given. We are each personally responsible for using what we have, for the time we have it, as good stewards. And I'm not just talking about those of us who have exceptional gifts. All of us, great and small, will give an account for our stewardship over our abilities and gifts. Every one of them.
How about your good looks? You and I will give an account for how we have used our beauty. Have you used it to self-aggrandize and look down upon others who are less physically attractive? Have you used it to have people fawn over you and make you feel like a queen? Have you exposed it and sold it to the world, for the eyes of all to see? Or have you used it for the happiness of others and saved it, especially, for a person you will love and spend the rest of your life with?
Do you have a working brain? You and I will give an account for how we have used our smarts. Have you used it to suppress the knowledge of your Creator? Have you used it to jockey for position above the "peons" who only have average intellect? Or have you used it to truly bless the world and point to the greatness of your Maker?
Do you have sexual function? Some people do not -it is not to be taken for granted. You will give an account for how you have used even your sexuality. Have you used it to notch your bedposts and feel like you are a "real man" (or woman)? Have you used it to use and exploit people of the opposite sex purely for your own pleasure? Have you used it to put other people down when they don't please you the way you want? Have you exposed it to the public in order to make money?
While using our gifts and abilities to try to win a place of glory in the world seems attractive, there is a peace in knowing that we have been faithful stewards before our Creator. Everyone in the world, for their own selfish or warped reasons, may hate us and disapprove of us, but if our Creator sees that we have been faithful with everything we have given, there is a peace and rest in that. We can hear His voice saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant..."
What do you hear? What will you hear on that day?